Sunday, December 28, 2008

Media parrot Hamas on casualty numbers Gaza terrorists have long history of inflating total killed, wounded

By Aaron Klein

JAFFA, Israel – The U.S. and international news media have largely accepted as fact Hamas-provided casualty counts following a series of Israeli surgical strikes today in the Gaza Strip, despite Hamas' and the Palestinian Authority's long and sordid histories of greatly inflating casualty figures.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told WND, "The Hamas government in Gaza has instituted a Taliban-like regime and has systematically destroyed independent civil society, which makes it pretty difficult for there to be independent verification of these numbers,"

Regev continued, "One must keep in mind Hamas has a major propaganda interest in highlighting civilian casualties while at the same time minimizing the number of Hamas combatants killed."

Still, the news media today reported as fact that at least 205 people had been killed in the Israeli strikes, which targeted dozens of Hamas buildings in a purported Israeli bid to clamp down on repeated rocket attacks launched from Gaza and aimed at nearby Jewish cities.

Most news reports failed to mention the casualty numbers were provided by Hamas, which claimed only 3 of the casualties were actual Hamas military leaders.

"Israeli air strikes killed more than 200 people in Gaza," reported a widely-circulated Reuters article.

"Egypt condemned as 'murder' Israel's Saturday air raids on Gaza that killed at least 205 Palestinians," reported the AFP. Similar statements were parroted in over 4,500 English language reports today.

With somber music playing in the background, both CNN and the BBC have been airing continuous loops of what the networks claimed were Palestinian civilian casualties being rushed into a local hospital. Both networks aired the same footage, provided to them by Al Jazeera, which is openly sided with Hamas.

"Does hitting so-called Hamas institutions mean over 200 civilians killed?" Regev was twice asked today by a BBC anchor during an interview.

CNN interviewed a man identified as a Gaza-based doctor who claimed two-thirds of the "over 200 casualties" were women and children. The network also featured – without challenge – a man identified as a Gaza-based human rights activist, who accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians and perpetuating a "massacre" in Gaza.

Neither CNN nor the BBC have thus far featured any footage today of the southern Israeli towns that have been battered by Palestinian rocket fire in recent days, killing one Israeli.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, claimed his group's casualty counts were minimized.

"We're talking about much more than 200. Every minute we get more information on more civilians killed," Barhoum told WND, speaking by cell phone from Gaza.

"We call on the international community to condemn this Israeli massacre and hold Israel back from more war crimes," he said.

The IDF tonight released a list of some of the targets hit: a Hamas headquarters and training camp in Tel Zatar; a "Palestinian Prisoner Tower" in Gaza City that was turned into a Hamas operations center and armory; a Hamas police academy, which Hamas claims was bombed during a graduation ceremony, killing 70-80 Hamas operatives; training camps in southern and central Gaza; the former office of late Palestinian Yasser Arafat in Gaza City that is now used by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh; and the Izzadin Kassam Brigades headquarters in the northern Gaza Strip.

Hamas and the PA have been caught many times inflating casualty counts. In June, 2006, Hamas claimed the Israel Defense Forces killed over 20 sunbathers on a Gaza beach, but it was later determined seven were killed, and the cause of the explosion was not the IDF but a Hamas explosives booby trap intended for Israeli naval forces.

Following a 2002 Israeli antiterror raid in the northern West Bank town of Jenin, Hamas and the PA claimed hundreds of Palestinian civilians were murdered. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed on CNN that "more than 500 people" were killed. He repeated the charge on CNN a day later, adding that 300 Palestinians were being buried in mass graves.

It was later determined 54 Palestinians were killed, mostly terrorists, while the IDF lost 23 troops it engaged in house-to-house combat – instead of massive air raids – in order to limit civilian casualties.

Israel claimed Hamas routinely labels as civilians its gunmen killed in Israeli anti-terror attacks.

In today's air strikes, the IDF maintains it tried to minimize casualties. An IDF statement said its military strikes were predicated on precise intelligence amassed in recent months to target specific Hamas facilities.

Olmert's office released a statement explaining the attacks were launched, "following the violation of the terms of the truce by Hamas and the unceasing attacks by Hamas authorities on Israeli civilians in the south of the country."

The U.S. for its part squarely blamed Hamas for the Gaza violence.

"The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.

"The ceasefire should be restored immediately," Rice said. "The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza."

Today's strikes come after Hamas refused to renew a six-month truce with Israel that expired last week unless Israel met a series of conditions, including opening the country's borders with Gaza and expanding the truce to the Fatah-controlled West Bank. In a show of force, Hamas in recent days launched hundreds of rockets from Gaza into nearby Jewish cities, including Ashkelon, which houses a power plant that provides the Gaza Strip with 75 percent of its electricity.

Source: WND


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